HTTP OPTIONS Method: Comprehensive Guide

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In the world of web development, HTTP methods play a crucial role in facilitating communication between clients and servers. These methods define the actions that can be performed on a resource, enabling developers to create, read, update, or delete data as needed. One such HTTP method that may not be as widely known but is just as important is the HTTP OPTIONS method.

HTTP OPTIONS Method Definition

The HTTP OPTIONS method is a standardized way for clients to request information about the communication options available for a particular resource on a server. When a client sends an OPTIONS request, the server responds with a list of supported HTTP methods and any additional communication options specific to that resource.

Imagine the OPTIONS method as a friendly inquiry about the capabilities of a resource, similar to asking a friend what their favorite hobbies are. This method does not modify the resource itself but rather helps the client understand how they can interact with it.

Components of an HTTP OPTIONS Request

Request Line

An HTTP OPTIONS request is composed of a request line and several headers. The request line includes the following components:

  1. Method: The HTTP method, in this case, OPTIONS, is the first part of the request line, indicating the type of request being made.
  2. URI: The Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) specifies the resource for which the client is requesting information. This can be an absolute URI, including the scheme (e.g., http://), or a relative URI, which omits the scheme and domain.
  3. Protocol version: The protocol version, typically “HTTP/1.1” or “HTTP/2”, follows the URI, specifying the version of the HTTP protocol being used.

An example of an HTTP OPTIONS request line might look like this:

OPTIONS /my-resource HTTP/1.1


Headers provide additional information about the request. Some common headers that might be included in an OPTIONS request are:

  1. Host: The “Host” header specifies the domain name or IP address of the server hosting the resource. This header is required for HTTP/1.1 requests and is essential for servers that host multiple domains.


Host: www.example.com
  1. User-Agent: The “User-Agent” header identifies the client software making the request, such as a browser or API client. This information can be useful for logging, analytics, or providing different responses based on the client type.


User-Agent: Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 10.0; Win64; x64) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/58.0.3029.110 Safari/537.36
  1. Accept: The “Accept” header specifies the media types that the client is willing to accept in the response. This header is optional and helps ensure compatibility between client and server.


Accept: application/json
  1. Access-Control-Request-Method: In the context of a preflight CORS request, the “Access-Control-Request-Method” header indicates the HTTP method that the client intends to use in the actual request. The server can then respond with whether it supports the specified method.


Access-Control-Request-Method: POST
  1. Access-Control-Request-Headers: Also used in preflight CORS requests, the “Access-Control-Request-Headers” header lists custom headers that the client plans to include in the actual request. The server can then respond with the headers it supports.


Access-Control-Request-Headers: Content-Type, Authorization

Components of an HTTP OPTIONS Response

When a server receives an HTTP OPTIONS request, it responds with information about the available communication options for the specified resource. The response consists of a status line, headers, and an optional response body.

Status Line

The status line of an HTTP OPTIONS response includes the following components:

  1. Protocol version: This indicates the version of the HTTP protocol used in the response, such as “HTTP/1.1” or “HTTP/2”.
  2. Status code: The status code is a three-digit number that indicates the outcome of the request. For a successful OPTIONS request, the status code is typically “200” (OK).
  3. Status message: The status message is a brief, human-readable description of the status code. For a “200” status code, the message is usually “OK”.

An example of an HTTP OPTIONS response status line might look like this:

HTTP/1.1 200 OK


The headers in an HTTP OPTIONS response provide information about the available communication options for the resource. Some common headers include:

  1. Allow: The “Allow” header lists the HTTP methods that are supported by the resource. For example:
  1. Public: The “Public” header is an alternative to the “Allow” header, indicating the methods that are available for public use. This header is less commonly used.


  1. Access-Control-Allow-Origin: In the context of a CORS request, the “Access-Control-Allow-Origin” header specifies the origins that are allowed to access the resource. The server can return a specific origin, multiple origins, or use a wildcard (*) to allow any origin.


Access-Control-Allow-Origin: *
  1. Access-Control-Allow-Methods: Also used in CORS requests, the “Access-Control-Allow-Methods” header lists the HTTP methods that are allowed for cross-origin requests to the resource.


Access-Control-Allow-Methods: GET, POST, PUT, DELETE, OPTIONS
  1. Access-Control-Allow-Headers: This header, used in CORS responses, specifies the custom headers that the server allows in cross-origin requests.


Access-Control-Allow-Headers: Content-Type, Authorization
  1. Access-Control-Max-Age: In CORS responses, the “Access-Control-Max-Age” header indicates the maximum time, in seconds, that the preflight response can be cached by the client. This can help reduce the number of preflight requests made by the client.


Access-Control-Max-Age: 86400

Response Body

The response body of an HTTP OPTIONS request is optional and typically empty. However, some servers may choose to include human-readable or machine-readable information about the resource’s communication options. This can be useful for providing API documentation or additional details about the supported methods and headers.

Common Use Cases of HTTP OPTIONS Method

The HTTP OPTIONS method is a versatile tool that serves a variety of purposes in web development. Here are some common use cases where the OPTIONS method proves invaluable:

Preflight CORS Requests

Cross-Origin Resource Sharing (CORS) is a security feature implemented by web browsers to prevent unauthorized access to resources on different domains. Before a browser sends a cross-origin request that could have side effects, it initiates a preflight CORS request using the HTTP OPTIONS method. The OPTIONS request includes information about the intended request, such as the method and custom headers. The server then responds with the allowed methods, headers, and origins, indicating whether the actual request can proceed.

Think of preflight CORS requests as a “security handshake” between the client and server, ensuring that only authorized requests are processed.

Discovering Allowed Methods on a Resource

Developers can use the OPTIONS method to programmatically determine the supported HTTP methods for a specific resource. By sending an OPTIONS request to a resource, the server returns a list of allowed methods in the “Allow” header. This information can be helpful for designing API clients, adapting to changes in server capabilities, or handling errors caused by unsupported methods.

Debugging and Testing Purposes

The OPTIONS method can be a valuable tool for debugging and testing web applications. By inspecting the response headers of an OPTIONS request, developers can gain insights into the server’s configuration, such as allowed methods, CORS settings, and supported custom headers. This information can help diagnose issues, verify server settings, and ensure compliance with security policies.

API Documentation and Exploration

API providers can leverage the OPTIONS method to create self-documenting APIs. By including metadata about the resource’s communication options in the response body or headers, developers can easily discover how to interact with the API. This approach can simplify the onboarding process, reduce the need for external documentation, and provide up-to-date information about the API’s capabilities.

Security Considerations

While the HTTP OPTIONS method provides valuable information about the communication options for a resource, it’s essential to consider potential security risks and best practices to ensure the safety and integrity of your web applications.

Potential Security Risks

  1. Information leakage: By exposing the supported HTTP methods and headers for a resource, the OPTIONS method may inadvertently reveal sensitive information about the server’s configuration or APIs. This information could be exploited by malicious actors to craft targeted attacks or identify vulnerabilities.
  2. CORS misconfiguration: Incorrectly configuring CORS settings in an OPTIONS response can lead to unauthorized cross-origin requests, potentially exposing sensitive data or allowing unauthorized modifications to resources.

Best Practices for Server Configuration

  1. Limit exposure: Only include necessary information in OPTIONS responses. Avoid exposing sensitive details or internal configurations that could be used by attackers.
  2. Restrict allowed origins: In CORS responses, use the “Access-Control-Allow-Origin” header to specify which origins are allowed to access the resource. Avoid using a wildcard (*) unless necessary, and consider using a whitelist of trusted origins.
  3. Validate allowed methods: Ensure that the allowed methods in the “Access-Control-Allow-Methods” header match your application’s requirements. Avoid allowing methods that aren’t required for your use case.
  4. Secure custom headers: When using the “Access-Control-Allow-Headers” header, only include custom headers that are necessary for your application. Unnecessary headers could introduce security risks or be exploited by attackers.

Handling Preflight CORS Requests Securely

  1. Verify the request method: In preflight CORS requests, check the “Access-Control-Request-Method” header to ensure the requested method is allowed for the resource. Respond with an appropriate error code, such as “405 Method Not Allowed,” if the method is not supported.
  2. Validate custom headers: Inspect the “Access-Control-Request-Headers” header to ensure that the requested custom headers are allowed for the resource. Respond with an error code, such as “400 Bad Request,” if any unsupported headers are found.
  3. Set a reasonable max-age: Use the “Access-Control-Max-Age” header to specify the caching duration for preflight responses. A longer duration reduces the number of preflight requests but may also increase the risk of stale configurations being used. Choose a value that balances performance and security.

Practical Examples

Now that we’ve covered the concepts and use cases of the HTTP OPTIONS method, let’s explore some practical examples. We’ll demonstrate how to implement OPTIONS requests in popular programming languages and handle them on the server-side using common web frameworks.

Implementing an HTTP OPTIONS Request in Popular Programming Languages

JavaScript (using Fetch API)

To send an HTTP OPTIONS request in JavaScript, you can use the Fetch API. Here’s an example:

fetch('https://api.example.com/resource', {
  method: 'OPTIONS'
  .then(response => response.headers.get('Allow'))
  .then(allowedMethods => console.log('Allowed methods:', allowedMethods))
  .catch(error => console.error('Error:', error));

Python (using Requests library)

In Python, you can use the popular Requests library to send an OPTIONS request:

import requests

response = requests.options('https://api.example.com/resource')
allowed_methods = response.headers.get('Allow')
print(f'Allowed methods: {allowed_methods}')

Java (using HttpURLConnection)

For Java, you can use the HttpURLConnection class to send an OPTIONS request:

import java.io.IOException;
import java.net.HttpURLConnection;
import java.net.URL;

public class OptionsRequest {
    public static void main(String[] args) throws IOException {
        URL url = new URL("https://api.example.com/resource");
        HttpURLConnection connection = (HttpURLConnection) url.openConnection();

        String allowedMethods = connection.getHeaderField("Allow");
        System.out.println("Allowed methods: " + allowedMethods);


PHP (using cURL)

In PHP, you can use the cURL extension to send an OPTIONS request:

$curl = curl_init();

curl_setopt_array($curl, [
  CURLOPT_URL => 'https://api.example.com/resource',

$response = curl_exec($curl);
$headers = curl_getinfo($curl);
$allowedMethods = $headers['Allow'];

echo "Allowed methods: $allowedMethods";

Handling OPTIONS Requests on the Server-side

Node.js (using Express.js)

To handle OPTIONS requests in a Node.js application using the Express.js framework, you can use the following code:

const express = require('express');
const app = express();

app.options('/resource', (req, res) => {
  res.header('Allow', 'GET, POST, PUT, DELETE, OPTIONS');

app.listen(3000, () => console.log('Server listening on port 3000'));

Python (using Flask)

For a Python application using the Flask framework, you can handle OPTIONS requests as shown below:

from flask import Flask, request, make_response

app = Flask(__name__)

@app.route('/resource', methods=['OPTIONS'])
def options_resource():
    response = make_response()
    response.headers['Allow'] = 'GET, POST, PUT, DELETE, OPTIONS'
    return response

if __name__ == '__main__':

Java (using Spring Boot)

In a Java application using Spring Boot, you can handle OPTIONS requests with the following code:

import org.springframework.web.bind.annotation.RequestMapping;
import org.springframework.web.bind.annotation.RequestMethod;
import org.springframework.web.bind.annotation.RestController;

public class ResourceController {

    @RequestMapping(value = "/resource", method = RequestMethod.OPTIONS)
    public ResponseEntity<Void> optionsResource() {
        HttpHeaders headers = new HttpHeaders();
        headers.setAllow(Arrays.asList(HttpMethod.GET, HttpMethod.POST,HttpMethod.PUT, HttpMethod.DELETE, HttpMethod.OPTIONS)); return new ResponseEntity<>(null, headers, HttpStatus.OK); } }

PHP (using Laravel)

To handle OPTIONS requests in a PHP application using the Laravel framework, you can use the following code:

use Illuminate\Http\Request;
use Illuminate\Http\Response;

Route::options('/resource', function (Request $request) {
    $response = new Response();
    $response->header('Allow', 'GET, POST, PUT, DELETE, OPTIONS');
    return $response;

See Also

HTTP GET vs POST: Discover the Crucial Differences

HTTP POST vs PUT: Discover the Crucial Differences

HTTP GET vs CONNECT: Discover the Crucial Differences

HTTP PUT vs PATCH: Discover the Crucial Differences

HTTP POST VS HEAD: Discover the Crucial Differences